Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Humour!

Halloween is this Saturday, so here is a little Halloween humour to get you in the mood!

What do skeletons say before they begin dining?
Bone appetite!
When does a ghost have breakfast?
In the moaning.
What do goblins and ghosts drink when they're hot and thirsty on Halloween?
Ghoul-aid, Apple Spider and Bloody Marys.!!!
Where does Count Dracula usually eat his lunch?
At the casketeria.
What tops off a ghost's ice cream sundae?
Whipped scream.
What's a ghosts favorite desert?
BOO-berry pie with "I Scream!"
What is a vampires favorite holiday?
What do you call a witch who lives at the beach?
A sand-witch.
Where did the goblin throw the football?
Over the ghoul line.
Why was the monster athlete so happy?
He won a ghoul medal at the Olympics.
What is the favorite food of mathematicians?
Pumpkin Pi
What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?
Who was the most famous ghost detective?
Sherlock Moans.
Who was the most famous witch detective?
Warlock Holmes
Who was the most famous skeleton detective?
Sherlock Bones.
Who was the most famous French skeleton?
Napoleon bone-apart
What do you call a little monsters parents
Mummy and deady
What do you call two witches living together?
Why don't witches like to ride their brooms when they're angry?
They're afraid of flying off the handle!
Where do mummies go for a swim?
To the dead sea.
What is Transylvania?
Dracula's terror tory
Where does Dracula water ski?
On Lake Erie
Which building does Dracula visit in New York?
The Vampire State Building.
Where do most werewolves live?
In HOWLlywood, California.
Where do most goblins live?
in North and South Scarolina.
Where does a ghost refuel his porche?
At a ghastly station.
Why doesn't anybody like Dracula?
He has a bat temper.
Why did Dracula go to the dentist?
He had a fang-ache.
Why are vampires like false teeth?
They all come out at night.
Who does Dracula get letters from?
His fang club.
Where do ghosts mail their letters?
At the ghost office.
Why don't mummies take vacations?
They're afraid they'll relax and unwind.
How do you mend a broken Jack-o-lantern?
With a pumpkin patch.

Want to have a little Halloween game fun? Check out "Trick, Tac, Toe" or "Halloween Bowling Cats"!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

It'll Be Here Before You Know It!

Have you looked at the calendar lately? if you haven't take a look at the date at the top of this post.

Yup, It's October 25. So what you say? So that means that it is EXACTLY two months till Christmas!

Depending on the type of person you are, you could be doing one of several things:
- partially or completely finished your Christmas shopping.
- writing up your Christmas wish list.
nice start!
- trying to figure out how to get back on Santa's "nice" list after the last few months of "naughty"!
OH OH!! Good luck with that!!
- wondering where the time went and why you didn't realize it was that late already.
yes time does fly and so do Santa's reindeer!
- shaking your head wondering how I could bring up Christmas before Halloween.
I do it because I can!!
- in complete denial.
No, not the river in Egypt!

Come on people! Work with me here! I'm giving you lots of notice and most of you are just nodding your head and saying "I'll get to it soon....." Soon becomes later and the next thing you know, you are running around half crazed the week before Christmas saying "Why didn't I listen to dn when I had the chance?"

Okay, maybe not quite those words, but you aren't in the holiday mood yet, or there isn't snow on the ground yet, or whatever your excuse is. Well, you can spin it anyway you want it, but the clock is ticking and you have just under 9 weeks to get it all done.

My mom has always joked that if she'd known Christmas was coming, she'd have been ready sooner! Yeah, HELLO - it's the same day every year!

I know, with the way this last year has gone for many, the last thing they want to think about is preparing for the holidays. It can be overwhelming and a huge hit to the budget, but if you start doing a little bit now, it won't be so rushed or as expensive later.

Hate me if you must, but I started Christmas shopping in September. Not a lot, but a couple of things caught my attention and I knew that they would be perfect for certain people. As many of you know, I do a lot of baking to give for Christmas gifts. That takes a lot of time and planning. I keep a master list of supplies and watch for things going on sale as early as September. Every year, my sister takes me to Costco to do a major grocery shop and I pick up a few of my baking supplies while I'm at it. We usually go in late October or early November, but we went early this year - the end of September. We also stopped at Morden's Of Winnipeg so that I could get all my chocolate for the various goodies I make as gifts. With the exception of a few things, all the baking supplies are now in my pantry, fridge and freezer.

I actually started baking on Friday. Made the first two of four "Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake". They were later cut, packaged, labeled and frozen so that they are ready when I start assembling "Goody Bags" in mid to late November.

I'll start making the chocolates and the shortbread in the next week or so.

If things go well, I'm also hoping to make a few other Christmas presents this year, but will see how my schedule fills out. If that doesn't work, I do have a backup plan and ideas for gifts I can purchase at the Annual Christmas Craft Sale here November 19 - 22 or at some local stores.

Barring the unforeseen, I should have the all the non-edible gifts bought/made by November 30 and wrapped by the first weekend of December. The baking should be finished by no later than December 15. If I had more fridge and freezer space, I could have it done even sooner!

Yes, Christmas preparations can be a lot of work, but if you start early and get organized it can be a lot more enjoyable come the festive season. If you do as much as you can ahead of time, then you can avoid the crowds, the impulse buying, over spending and those last minute trips for more supplies and gifts. You can sit back and relax with friends and even family as you enjoy the holidays.

So, what are you waiting for? Start making that list! Start shopping! Do some holiday baking! Put the outdoor decorations up before it gets too cold! Come on - the clock is ticking and it'll be Christmas before you know it!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Mixing Fork

My maternal grandmother was a home economist. She had graduated in 1920 and worked with her agricultural rep husband to teach farm couples better ways of growing and preparing foods. My grandmother taught all four of her kids to cook and they all taught their children.

One of the essentials of my grandmother's kitchen was an oversized fork with tines that were slightly angled. It was a cross between a fork and a pastry cutter. It was the perfect tool for a wide variety of jobs in the kitchen.
It was ideal for blending dry ingredients or wet ingredients. It was perfect for mixing any batters, biscuits, breads, muffins, cakes, puddings, sauces, gravies - almost anything! You could also use it to mash potatoes or fresh fruit and also use it in place of a slotted spoon. It could take the lumps out of any dry mixtures and volumize any mixture with eggs or cream. It beat a wooden spoon or a pastry cutter by a country mile and then some!

When both my mom and my aunt were married, my grandfather bought them each one of these tools.

As far back as I can remember, there was always a mixing fork in our home. We never really knew what the real name of this handy tool was, but it was indispensable.

The fork itself was about 10" long and about 2" wide. The tines were about 1/8" wide, slightly curved and close to 2 1/2" long. The angle of the tines allowed for efficient blending by hand with minimal effort. Sure we also had electric mixers and even the old crank style hand mixer, but this was just a better fit for the hand and a lot easier to clean.

The first few years that I was living out on my own, I had to go without one of these mixing forks. Mom and I had looked for them and couldn't find them anywhere. We finally found them in an old style variety store and bought several for gifts. That was around 1980 or so. My sister eventually inherited my grandmother's mixing fork.
I never really looked for them again until around 1990. Several friends had coveted my "unique" tool and had even threatened to steal it! I searched high and low, but was unable to find anything even remotely similar. I took the fork with me to several stores that carried substantial kitchenware but no one had it. Pretty much all of them said if we ever find it - let them know as they thought it was a great idea! My sister and I even looked while on one of my medical trips to Toronto but no luck. She and my mom looked whenever they traveled.

I recently decided to see if I could find out anything on line, but trying to find something when you don't know what it is called isn't easy. After trying several names such as mixing fork and kitchen fork, I checked my fork more carefully and found the name "Foley" engraved on the back. I typed "Foley Fork" into a search engine and hit the jackpot!

Over the years, the Original Foley Fork has been known by several names including blender fork and granny fork. I wasn't able to find the history of the fork, but since my grandmother had one before her kids were married, I know it goes back at least 65 -70 years. The Original Foley Fork is no longer manufactured, but here are a couple of products that caught my attention.

The first one is a wanna be called "Norpro Grip-Ez Granny Fork". It looks somewhat similar but the tines are varied in length. This may be a good tool for some things but I doubt that it would be as versatile as the original design.

The second is called "RSVP Fantastic Food Fork" or "The Endurance Fantastic Food Fork by RSVP" and is manufactured by RSVP International which is a wholesale manufacturer.

I examined the product detail and description and this is the closest to what I have been using for over 40 years.

The fork is carried on several sites such as Creative Kitchen, Chef Tools or Amazon. You can also check with your local kitchenware store to see if they carry the RSVP line. Prices vary greatly so shop around. I found prices from $6-10US/fork on line plus shipping, handling and taxes. I contacted a local store to see if they could get it. They could only order it in lots of 6, but I was quoted $11.99 plus taxes for one. If I bought all 6 I could get 10% off ($10.79/fork X 6 = $64.74 plus taxes). That may be a lot more expensive, but by the time I add in exchange on the dollar, international shipping fees and any duty/border taxes there might not be a lot of difference in price.

Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, an experienced cook and baker or somewhere in the middle, the Foley Fork is a MUST for every kitchen.

If you don't cook but want to learn or just say thank you to your favourite cook - this would make a perfect stocking stuffer for Christmas or any other gift giving occasion!

This is one tool that is really worth the investment. I can't imagine how I would manage in the kitchen without it!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Good Service Is Good Business

Love them or hate them, big box stores are a part of our urban landscape.

We love them cause the prices are lower and we can get almost anything all in one store.

We hate them because they are often on the edges of cities or not close to bus service. We hate them because you often get impersonal service - assuming that you can even find a clerk.
Let's face it, we have ALL had bad experiences in those places at some point.

But, not all big box stores are created equal.

I live on a tight budget, so have to shop around for good deals. I go through the grocery flyers every week and often hit two or three stores to get everything I need. More often than not, I end up at the Superstore at Kenaston Blvd. and Grant Ave. here in Winnipeg.

Over the years, I've gotten in the habit of shopping mid week - right when the store opens. It used to open at 9:00 then switched to 8:00 a couple of years ago. I adjusted my schedule accordingly. I found that shopping before 9 was a lot easier as the store wasn't crowded. The shelves were stocked and the produce was fresh. You could often meet the same customers who also shopped in the early hours. I found that the staff that worked that early shift were always friendly, polite and willing to assist whenever possible. It was a big box store with a neighbourhood corner store feel.

A year or so ago, they started opening at 7:00. I wasn't thrilled as that meant getting up by 6:00 and leaving by 6:40 for the 7-8 minute walk to the bus stop and 15-20 minute ride depending if I was lucky enough to catch an express bus. I usually made it by 7:10 - 7:20 AM. I'd do my shopping in under an hour and usually be home by about 8:30.

I am not a real morning person - at least not that early, but I had really gotten to like shopping in an uncrowded store where the staff knew me and offered help. I didn't know too many names but we always said good morning and a quick how are you.

For the last few months, my Superstore has been undergoing some much needed expansion and upgrades. It hadn't had any major work done since it was built almost 30 years ago. The renovations hadn't really been affecting the customers until the last few weeks. They are now starting to do the inside work of expanding and remodeling the various departments, so some things aren't where they should normally be or are unavailable for a few weeks. It will be great once the work is all done but, a nuisance for us regulars or early shoppers for a few more weeks.

This past Tuesday morning, I planed on going to Superstore, but awoke late - 6:20. I rushed my morning routine and managed to make it out the door by 6:45 and caught an express bus. I was at the store by 7:05.

I wasn't totally awake, but something seemed a bit off as I walked in. The display tables near the front seemed crowded together and out of place. The aisle I usually take was partially blocked.

I noticed a large sign a few feet away and was attempting to focus on it. It was an orange background with white letters. All I had made out so far was an 8 and a 10 - when a guy in a hard hat came up to me and said the store doesn't open till 8.

HUH? Since when?


Oh crap! Now what? I slipped off my backpack and slumped into a chair near the door while I sleepily debated my options. There was no point in going home, as I'd just be turning around to come back. There is a coffee shop not too far away, but I didn't have any extra money for that. It was -5C outside and I didn't relish the thought of standing outside for almost an hour. I could have slept another 45 minutes had I known! Argh!

A couple of minutes later the manager came up to me, said good morning and explained that the store would be opening from 8 AM to 10 PM now until the renovations were complete. As of December 5, the store would be opening at 6:00AM on weekdays. He apologized for the inconvenience and said the signs had only been posted late the previous week. (I'd been there the previous Tuesday - a few days before the signs went up.) I asked why the doors were open and was told that was to give the workers easy access. There had been security at the door until 7, but someone forgot to lock the door when they left. I explained that going home and coming back really wasn't worth it and asked if it would be alright if I waited here.

He could easily have said no and asked me to leave, but he didn't. He said I was welcome to wait and that he would let me know as soon as the aisles were clear and it would be safe for me to shop. If I needed it, he would also have a staff person accompany me to find things that had been moved.

I thanked him and said I'd probably be okay without assistance. There wasn't a lot on my list.

I really wasn't fully awake yet and wasn't thrilled with this unplanned delay but was grateful for the opportunity of sitting inside of a warm building as opposed to standing out in the cold.

It felt a little strange sitting there and watching the construction workers leave and the staff arrive. Several of the staff greeted me as they came in. The manager checked on me a couple of times as he went about his morning routine. About 7:45, he was talking to a couple of cashiers and then pointed at me and said; "This young lady has been sitting here since just after 7. She didn't know about the time changes." He laughed and said that I was the preferred customer that morning and that I could now start shopping!

I didn't find everything on my list that morning. One item was out of stock and a couple of things were temporarily unavailable.

What I did find, was a new respect for the big box store and the people who run them and work there. The manager didn't have to let me stay inside, but he did. The staff didn't have to greet me, but they did. Part of it may be that I have a white cane. Part of it may be that I am there almost every week. Overall, I think it is just a matter of common courtesy and good business.

So, for the next few weeks, I get to sleep in a bit more on the days that I go to Superstore. I'll be able to get up around my normal time. Once the store expands it's hours on December 5, I'll probably start shopping a bit earlier again. But not too early - I need my sleep and the bus only starts running at 6:00!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My PC Is Out To Get Me!

I think my PC is out to get me.

Over the last while, I've been noticing little things. Like when I am trying to type and I know how to spell the word but it doesn't come out that way on the screen. There will be an extra letter or the letters will be reversed. Say I want to type the word "night". Well instead of it being "night", it will be something like "nighjt" or "nihgt".

Sometimes it will look like a foreign language. Say I am typing the word "year". It may come out as "ywse" or some other weird combo.

Other times it will insert a symbol just ;ike that. It may aLSO SET THE CAPS LOCK FOR ME without my permission. It has even been known to hit enter
rather than backspace. Occasionally it will use a ! rather than an @ or a period rather than a comma.

It is rather odd isn't it? But that is not the only thing.

The mouse is also in on the act and I swear it is out to embarrass and humiliate me. I play a number of games - mostly match 3 and puzzle games. Depending on the style, colours and layout of the game field, there are some games that I can do very well at, despite my low vision. One game that I have been able to best all of my online pals at, is called "Bricks Breaking" I play it on my social network site of choice, but you can find it on several sites including Mindjolt.

The concept is simple. There are three colours of bricks. You destroy all the bricks by clicking in groups of the same colour. You need to use a magic wand if you want to destroy a single brick. You get five wands. Once those are gone you keep playing until you have one or more bricks left that you can't destroy within a group. It is actually harder than it sounds and takes both luck and strategy to actually make it through rounds without using any of the wands. The highest that I have ever scored is 257,346. I've gone over 200,000 three or four times now but usually am somewhere in the 100,000 to 150,000 range. Unless, of course my mouse decides to take control. There have been several occasions where I've been about to hit a group, when the mouse has jumped in before I was ready and ended up hitting a single brick - thus causing me to loose one of the valuable free wands. This is very annoying, especially if I was having a particularly good round up to that point. It also does it to me in a game called "Linyca". My highest score in that one is 318,645, but I've never been able to beat it as the mouse will sometimes hit individual colours in a row rather than multiples so I end up loosing points.

Not all of the games that I play are being disrupted by the mouse, but it is rather annoying when you are on a roll.

I know computers are supposed to be intelligent, but this thing is making a mockery of me and it has to stop!

I may be legally blind, and have a bit of trouble remembering how to spell some words, but even spell check can't figure out some of the things that have shown up on my screen!

YOu think I;m nuts don't you? (See it is doing it again!) You probably think this is all my own fault don't you?

Stop laughing! This is serious!

WEll I'm not making it up! The fact that I can't see very much or that I can't type worth a damn and am a lousy speller is completely beside the point. Computers are supposed to be smarter than us and make us look even better than we are.

Excuse me, but did I just hear someone say "The outcome is only as good as the information entered"??? Well...!!

My computer has had almost a year to get to know me and my abilities. I've more or less adjusted to Vista - and that wasn't easy - so why hasn't my PC adjusted to my needs and abilities?

It should know by now what I want and expect. It isn't like I misuse or abuse it. I've done everything I could to take care of it. I do a disk cleanup at least once a week. I defrag every month. I back things up. Everything I download is scanned before opening. If I'm going to be away from it for more than a couple of hours, I turn it off.

I've done everything for this computer and it repays me how? By mistyping words and clicking the mouse before I'm ready?

Harrumph! The nerve!!

Yes, there are also a lot of things it does right. It does alert me when I get emails, when there are updates available for various programs on my PC and keeps me updated on what is going on on my favourite web sites. It keeps me company and lets me listen to music, watch videos, play games, read what is going on in the world outside of my apartment and city. It lets me stay in touch with my friends through emails and networks.

Okay, okay. So it does more right than it does wrong. Maybe it is partially my fault that my keyboard and mouse aren't always doing what I want.

But I still think it is out to get me!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!


Friday, October 9, 2009

dn's Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake

Here in Canada, the second Monday of every October is Thanksgiving. I decided that I wanted to make something a little different for a holiday dessert this year, so hit the web in search of a pumpkin dessert.

After browsing for a bit, I came across a recipe on Taste Of Home that looked promising. It was for a Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake. The recipe was simple, yet would yield a delicious cake that was fit to grace any dessert tray!

As with all of my recipes, I made a few adjustments. Rather than using all white flour as indicated, I used some whole wheat as well as the all purpose. The original recipe used only cinnamon for spice which I thought seemed a little boring and odd with pumpkin, so I added cloves and nutmeg as well. While I was measuring ingredients, I noticed that there wasn't any salt in the recipe, so I added 1/2 teaspoon.

The other major changes that I made was the pumpkin and the nuts.

I have always used cooked squash rather than buying canned pumpkin. I prefer butternut or hubbard squash as they have a nice rich colour and are not overly watery like some varieties. Once the spices are added, you really can't tell the difference between pumpkin and squash.

I used almonds rather than pecans. Either would be good in this recipe, so use your nut of choice. The recipe, said to divide the nuts and sprinkle 1/2 cup in the bottom of the greased bundt pan before adding batter then sprinkle the rest on top after all the batter is in. That may be a good idea in theory, but once the cake is baked and turned out on to cooling racks, most of the nuts tend to fall off. I would recommend adding the nuts directly to the batter with the chocolate chips.

dn's Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin OR 2 cups cooked pumpkin or squash
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices; add to the creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one portion. In a well-greased 10-in. fluted tube pan, spoon chocolate batter evenly over the bottom; top with pumpkin batter and carefully spread evenly.

Bake at 325° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 16 servings.

- I found the cake took about 75 minutes to bake to clean toothpick stage, but every oven is different so test the cake at 65 minutes.
- If you would like to garnish this cake, I would suggest melting 1 - 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate and drizzling it over the cake after it has cooled for an hour or so on a wire rack. You could also sprinkle more finely chopped nuts over the chocolate before it hardens. Less chance of the nuts falling off!!!

This is a moist, flavourful cake that is sure to be a crowd pleaser at any gathering!


Happy Thanksgiving!!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Ethics And Honesty

At some point, we have all been overcharged by a store or a business. I'm not talking about sky high prices on items we know are actually worth a portion of what we are being charged. I'm talking about those accidental overcharges where we are charged regular price over sale price or charged for two or more items when we only bought one or we are given the wrong change. It isn't that unusual. Stores and the people running them make mistakes all the time - even with UPC scanners and registers that calculate and dispense the change.

What do you do if you are overcharged? Do you let it slide if it is under - say a dollar? Do you try and get your money back even if it is only a few cents? I think it is fairly safe to say that most of us will try and get our money back. Some stores actually give you an additional discount if they overcharge you. I had one store manager give me a $2 item for free after I showed him that I had been charged $2.49. I said that wasn't necessary, I just wanted my $.49, but he insisted due to the inconvenience. I'm still a regular customer at that store!

Unfortunately we can't always prove we have been overcharged. Here are two examples:

A friend and her daughter spent a long, tiring day shopping at a mall on the other side of the city from their home. They were in a fashion boutique and had picked out several items and then spied a display of earrings on sale by the register. It was near closing, so they quickly picked two pair to go with the rest of the items they had picked out. After paying, they ran to catch their bus. On the way home, she was thinking about the purchases and adding the amounts in her head. She wasn't able to make the amount she thought it should be match with the amount charged. Sure enough, when she checked the bill, she found she had been charged for 3 pairs instead of two. It wasn't a huge amount - only $6 plus taxes, but it was maddening. This wasn't a mall she shopped at more than a couple of times a year. The store had other outlets, but she had no way to prove she HADN'T bought that third pair unless she talked to the same clerk and the clerk recalled the purchase. Unfortunately for my friend, she had to let this incident pass and absorb the overpayment.

Another friend was luckier. She had purchased a couple of cards while shopping for groceries. When she got to her car, she checked her bill and realized she had been charged for more cards than she had bought. She went back into the store and talked to customer service. The clerk who had bagged her groceries was nearby and was able to verify that she had only bought 2. She got her money back.

I've been overcharged several times over the years and luckily have almost always been able to prove it and get my money back.

A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping at one of my usual grocery stores. I picked several apples from a bin that listed the price at 78 cents/lb or $1.72/kg. I had a number of items that day that were weighed, so I wasn't completely sure what my total would be. When I got home, I checked the bill - as I always do - and realized that I had been charged $1.49/lb or $3.29/kg. I had been overcharged $1.57 by my calculations. I kept the receipt and the flyer with the advertised sale price and planned on taking it with me the next time I went to that store.

Before I got back to that store, I was at another grocery store and the other side of the overcharge fell into play. I purchased a few items and thought my bill would be about $20-22.00. My total was $19.41. Oh well, maybe I missed a sale tag or something was cheaper than I thought. I examined the bill when I got home. To my amazement, I had not been charged for my dozen large eggs - $2.05 even though I watched the clerk as she slid everything across the scanner.

This was an interesting dilemma. Overcharged by $1.57 at store A and undercharged by $2.05 at store B. So far I was ahead by 48 cents! Both were good sized stores that really wouldn't notice such small amounts over the long term. They probably wouldn't care. The question was could I let both slide with a clear conscience?

Several years ago, I was also undercharged at a small grocery chain. I bought a package of cheese for about $4 and wasn't charged. I took the unopened cheese and the receipt back a couple of days later. The clerk called the manager who was a bit dumbfounded that someone was actually admitting they hadn't been charged. He shook my hand and thanked me for my honesty.

I asked several friends what they would do if overcharged. All said, if they could prove it they would get their money back. Some said down to the penny and others said if it was only a bit of change they wouldn't bother.

Then I asked them the other question. You are undercharged at a store - do you go back and pay? Most said that had never happened to them, but admitted they would be tempted not to - especially if they had gotten poor service or if it wasn't a store they shopped at often. Only a couple of people I asked said they would go back for both overcharges and undercharges. For them it was more about honesty than anything else. It was just the right thing to do.

The amounts weren't very much in the grand scheme of things and I'll admit, I was tempted to let both incidents go. I even contemplated going to store A and if I didn't get my money back then I would forget about going to store B!

So what did I do? Well, I was at both stores this past week doing my usual grocery shopping.

I went to store A on Wednesday and went to customer service with my receipt and the flyer from two weeks earlier. The clerk checked the flyer, apologized for the error and gave me my $1.57.

On Thursday, I was at store B and asked to see the manager/supervisor on duty. I said "This may be a bit unusual, but..." I went on to explain what happened and that I wanted to pay for my eggs. She was a bit shocked and said, that I really didn't have to have to do this. I briefly explained my previous experiences and said that I still wanted to pay. She took my money, gave me a receipt and thanked me.

A lot of people will only go back if overcharged and see it as a windfall in their favour if undercharged. What they don't get or perhaps fail to acknowledge, is that in the long run, we all end up paying for those who are undercharged or due to shoplifters.

I know I didn't have to go back to either store, but it really is a question of personal ethics and honesty. It is the way I was raised and I can sleep with a clear conscience.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

25 Years And Counting!

25 years ago today I moved to Winnipeg. I'd been born and raised in the country and lived in a couple of small towns as a young adult, but the city was always where I thought I belonged.

This wasn't actually my first time living in Winnipeg. I had been here for about a year and a half in the early 1980's. Back then, my first Winnipeg home was sharing a duplex with two friends near Grant Park. It was a nice little place, but we were subletting from some other friends and there was no way we could afford the rent long term. After that, I moved into a fairly new building in West Broadway. Three girlfriends shared a 2 bedroom apartment in the same building and I was in a small bachelor apartment a couple of floors down. It was great to have my own space and yet be so close to friends. We spent a lot of time together. At that time, West Broadway was just starting to turn rough. By the time I moved out one year later, I was more than ready to leave, but saddened to see the neighbourhood change for the worse. I went by that building a few years later and was even more saddened to see how much it had deteriorated in such a short time.

I was out of work and no job prospects, so I moved back to the farm for a couple of years. I did a couple of odd jobs as well as writing the family histories with my mom. The farm was okay, but I longed for the independence that living in the city would give me.

During the summer of 1984, a friend and I were talking. She was seriously thinking about moving to the city. She had an opportunity to work in a place that was close to her heart spiritually and wanted to spread her wings a bit. We discussed sharing a place for a year or two just so we could both get started. We'd known each other for years and had even traveled a bit together. I'd also stayed with her in her apartment in a nearby town for a week or so. Given that we got along so well, we decided to try it and even set out our own roommate rules/expectations in advance. We set out our budgets and division of responsibilities ahead of time. We left room for changes but it actually worked quite well.

After a couple of days of searching in early September, we finally found a one bedroom apartment that we both liked on Pembina near the University. We moved in on October 1, 1984. We were able to move to a two bedroom on November 15, 1984. We stayed in that building till the end of 1985, then house sat for four months in the northern part of Fort Garry. We went our separate ways in the spring of 1986 but are still good friends.

I moved around the next few years. I spent a year in a cramped attic apartment in Wolseley. It was less than 200 square feet and had an old fridge that had to be defrosted every two weeks in warm weather or it quit working. The landlord also bought me a second hand air conditioner so I wouldn't suffocate, but I nearly froze as it only worked on the coldest setting!

I stayed in Wolseley for another couple of years but moved to a building that had been very beautiful in it's prime with hardwood floors and a big old pedestal bathtub. Sadly, it had been grossly neglected over the years and even the current owners didn't want to put money into repairs. We had to contact a Rentalsman (government housing regulations agency) to get court ordered repairs. I loved that neighbourhood and its peaceful ambiance, but dealing with the building management and lack of care was more than I wanted to deal with, so I chose to leave in March 1990. I moved out to Garden City - to a partially subsidized building with about 75 units - most of which were for people with disabilities. The building was clean, bright and well cared for. It was close to major shopping and buses. This turned out to be a good move, as 8 months later, I suffered my detached retina. Living in the building that I did, gave me access to services that I needed post surgery.

As it turned out there was another reason leaving was a very smart move. My friends who stayed, said things got even worse in that old building. There had been some issues with poor heating from an old boiler, lack of hot water and false fire alarms before I left but these got even worse over the next year or two.

One of the few things that I didn't like about living in Garden City, was how far I was from my doctors and some of my longtime friends. It was a 20 minute bus ride to downtown and took close to an hour to get to some of my friends by bus.

I spent several months looking for a more central, affordable and accessible building. It was a frustrating process, but persistence paid off and I finally found what I was looking for in Osborne Village. I moved here in August 1993.

The Village is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada. It is a melting pot for all generations, income levels and ethnic groups.

About the only thing I don't like about the area is the noise. It can get rather loud during street festivals or after bar hours on some nights, but given the proximity to services, stores, buses and friends, it is something that I have - for the most part - learned to ignore.

Sometimes I still miss the quiet and the peaceful solitude of the country.

Wolseley had that small town feeling of friendliness without nosiness. Garden City and Fort Garry were quiet but not close enough to services and had mediocre bus service - especially on weekends. Pembina wasn't bad, but the traffic was crazy at times. If I could drive, I'd probably think more about moving out of the city or at least to a quiet suburb.

Overall, I like where I am now. It feels like it is the right place for me to be. I have a nice apartment - small but comfortable at just under 500 sq. feet. I have a great view of the city. I can't see myself moving anytime soon, but have learned to never say never!

Sometimes I get the urge, to find a new place - mostly just for the sake of change - but it usually doesn't last. All I have to do is think about packing up 16 years of "stuff" and then unpacking it and learning my way around a new area. That is pretty much enough to squelch the moving bug!

It is hard to believe that I've been in the city half of my life. I've met a lot of interesting people. Some have become close friends. My life has changed a lot in 25 years. I redefined myself and reinvented myself. I've learned to adapt and to adjust in ways I never thought I would. I've grown up and hopefully matured - at least a little bit!